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Thread: Africa Twin CRF1000l Review Ė A Userís Gripe

  1. #1
    Thailand Lifer Jesus Jones's Avatar
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    Africa Twin CRF1000l Review Ė A Userís Gripe

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    Africa Twin CRF1000l Ė A Userís Gripe


    There is no doubt the Africa Twin CRF1000l is an excellent machine with a strong heritage and the name Honda, synonymous with reliability. World Wide sales have been impressive and an award for Bike of the Year in some places. But as good as the bike is, like any other machine, it has flaws making you ask, ďFor the love of god, why Honda?Ē

    How Very Dare you!


    Blood is thicker than water, so they say. And brand loyalty can be a serious sore point for some when it comes to criticism. For the large majority, the Africa Twin is their perfect machine, and theyíll have it no other way. But letís be serious for a second here, there is no perfect steed. Marketing, like any other brand, does have a strong influence on our purchasing decision.

    I own an Africa Twin CRF1000l, so this review or rant, call it what you will, comes from a rider who waited three years in anticipation. I fended off my other options for a GS and KTM in favour of the AT due to its price, and one has to admit, those clever Honda ads riding through the desert sands and hilly climbs, waiting longingly for the next adventure ad to wet my buds! I have to point out here, We are not supported by Honda, so that you get my drift.

    If youíre one of the very few like me that ride this bike for its designed/marketed purpose, there are plenty of gripes thatíll have you effiní and jeffiní after a couple of 1000km or so. But letís distinguish the ridersí view of a perfect machine from those who have a few complaints.


    Rider Variations

    Weíve all fallen for reviews on various channels, but itís worth remembering reviews based on short time possession will not discover niggles. Manufacturers tend to lend their test vehicles for a few days to a week. Hardly enough time to get to know the bike. Personal ownership reviews tend to be the best, and of course, vary in great detail.

    Most riders it has to be said, will never take their perfect machine off road. Many have also worked their way up the ranks from a lesser bike or ordered a different menu from their previous crotch rocket. The Africa Twin has attracted many bikers who have never considered an adventure bike before and have always stayed on the black stuff. And in Thailand, but not limited to, a breed of Africa Twin owners riding with empty hard touring cases!

    Many of these riders have little to no piloting hours on the dirt and have not pushed their bike hard enough to discover little quirks. To those riders who never intend to take their machine off the road, you may well feel it is a near perfect machine, but in reality, it is far from the perfect adventure bike.

    As my riding is more dirt orientated, I bought the Africa Twin due to its history and price here in Thailand which is half the cost of a BMW or KTM. I made the purchase knowing that if I needed to repair fairing etc. due to off road riding, repairing it wouldnít be extortionate. It was right for me, and many others that Iíve spoken to. So without hesitation, I kitted the bike up with crash protection and 50/50 tires to suit my riding preference. On Road Riding, Running In


    On the road the bike felt great with its mediocre Dunlop rubber. Light, agile and almost mountain bike manoeuvrability. The power was smooth and ample enough for me not wanting anything more on Thai roads. The front wheel soaked up bumps and the odd pot-hole with ease, and despite the front diving under braking, I was sure an adjustment on the front suspension would counter this. I was running the bike in, so I didnít push it too far on the road. After only 400km, I changed the tires to Mitas e07 to scuff them up ready for its 1000km service, and my first trip off road.

    Eager to get on the dirt, I didnít hang around after its 1st service.

  2. #2
    Thailand Lifer Jesus Jones's Avatar
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    Khao Krajom, Here I come!
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    Iíd ridden to this place many times before on my modified Kawasaki Versys which did an excellent job and was astonishingly reliable and robust.
    Ridding to Ratchaburi was fun at 5 am with little to no cars. It felt comfortable compared to my Versys which often left me with a delicate derriere after 30 mins or so. Taking the opportunity to do so, I gave it some throttle - and compared to my previous comfortable speed of 125km on my Versys with Heidenau K60s before the buzz became too much, this thing was silky smooth. I looked down, and the clock displayed 130kph. ďLetís give it some moreĒ, I thought. As I reached a clean stretch of road, I hit 150kph where things started to change with a front wheel wobble. I carried tools with me, and after a little fettling and experimenting with the front suspension settings, I managed to iron most of the wobble out which was no doubt caused by the 50/50 knobblies.

    After a few hours on the tarmac and a stop at a coffee shop, I reached the starting point of Khoa Krajom. As I made the first climb of broken tarmac that transformed into dusty humps, carved channels and a loose stones but steep, I noticed I was switching from 1st and 2nd gear more often than Iíd expected (perhaps a 15 toothed front sprocket might help). I was a little surprised compared to the effortless throttle control of my modified Versys, a 90% street bike!
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    After a few KM of climbs and descents, I quickly realised the Africa Twin requires a lot of throttle and prefers to be powered up rather than guided. Not a bad thing. And who doesnít like the feeling of powering up a dusty trail? But thereís a flaw in this method Ė the suspension, which was a little hard after setting up to counter the wobble on the road. Once again, I faffed around with the front-end. Making my way up was done so with some trepidation. The need for constant high throttle from 1st to 2nd on the climbs left me feeling a little out of control over the bike. Not enough in 1st, the bike stuttered in 2nd on some steep sections. Dropping back down into 1st to prevent stalling and dropping the bike was needed.

    As I mentioned previously, I adjusted the suspension to suit the conditions, and powering up was met with humps, divots and ruts that didnít match the capability of the suspension or lack of. The increased force caused by speed and terrain forced the front to near enough max out. Other factors also need to be taken into consideration. Standing on the pegs with your body over the bars going uphill increase the physical difficulties and load of the front. In this configuration, the rear isnít taking the brunt of the action. I got through it and made my way to the top safely. When I told the dealer prior where I intended to ride the bike, he was a little surprised. And many I have spoken to thought the bike was too heavy to do those climbs. But having made it so many times on my Versys with ease and confidence, I thought the Africa Twin would have been a doddle. It was the opposite!

    After taking in the scenery on the mountaintop, I made the return journey back down which is trickier than the climb as it requires slower, more balanced speeds, sometimes riding over tracks a few inches wide with 1 Ė 2ft drops either side carved by heavy rains and 4x4 requires some skill on steep sections. Also, tires in this scenario or of utmost importance. If the tires let go, the ABS kicks in and this steed doesn't let you switch the front off.

    I made the first couple of steep descents before reaching a point where one can continue on your original course, or take a left-hander which has a smoother descent. I bottled it and took the smoother course, something I wouldnít have even considered on my modified Versys due to modifying the ABS.

    That being said, one canít fault the CRF1000l on the road. Its upright riding position provides long-term comfort with its adjustable seat. Handling is great and power is ample enough for these roads. An adjustable screen would have been nice to counter the buffeting. Torque control is fine, but far too aggressive with adventure tires

  3. #3
    Thailand Lifer Jesus Jones's Avatar
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    Spicing up the relationship between rider and machine!
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    To get the best out of the Africa Twin requires some confidence and understanding of the bikeís physics. Itís like an overexcited border-collie dog, requiring long brisk runs. Itís certainly no couch-potato but requires a healthy right-wrist to make this machine thrust! Powering through dirt, climbs, rough or smooth is begging to be done with throttle. And when you give it some, this thing eats most terrain up with ease, but certainly not in standard form!
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    The Africa Twin CRF1000l out of the box is set up for riders in the 75kg mark. Regardless, the suspension isnít adequate for speedy off road. The front, while adequate for the tarmac, is dated technology. The rear shock is good, but not great. The foot pegs would barely suite a 3rd graderís sized feet - narrow and uncomfortable. The right-side peg is cast-made and many have reported broken brackets. The handguards are as useful as a chocolate fireguard offering nothing more than wind protection. The rear brake reservoir is placed in a precarious position. And worst of all, the fender is bordering on dangerous for off road use. A biker friend and I have succumbed to front wheel lockup due to the fender gap between the tire and collected mud. Itís a common issue. And the torque control is fine, but far too aggressive with adventure tires.

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    None of the above matters to the street orientated rider that may venture on a dusty trail run while admiring passing flowers. But riders looking for real adventure need to make changes to the Africa Twin CRF1000l from tires to suspension, and a budget between 150k to 200k is required, and something to bare in mind before purchasing this bike based on clever marketing. And the differences in opinions are very apparent between those who actually give it some off road, and those whoíd prefer not to get dirty.

    Honda have marketed this bike for off road adventure, but for the love of god, why didnít Honda address the simplest of issues such as the fender, pegs, mount and gaurds that would have added nothing to the budget! Suspension and tires are a personal thing as one manufacturer-make doesnít suit all. But it seems Honda have penny pinched with the most ridiculous of items that would have otherwise made a near enough perfect machine.

  4. #4
    Thanxs JJ , it's special to have such a detailed first hand account

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  5. #5
    Thailand Lifer Jesus Jones's Avatar
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    Ironic, as I posted this a Thai friend with an Africa Twin just text me to say he popped his seals on the front forks. Another example of the lack of off road quality of the suspension.

  6. #6
    An excellent report JJ, thank you. Sad to read though. As a past owner of an old AT I was really looking forward to some good news about this exciting bike. as you pointed out so clearly, slick marketing but poor quality tells a sad story.
    Will you keep it or pass it on?


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    Last edited by luckyjim; 10-03-2017 at 12:40 PM.

  7. #7
    Thailand Lifer Jesus Jones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyjim View Post
    An excellent report JJ, thank you. Sad to read though. As a past owner of an old AT I was really looking forward to some good news about this exciting bike. as you pointed out so clearly, slick marketing but poor quality tells a sad story.
    Will you keep it or pass it on?


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    Hi,

    I will definitely keep it. Despite the issue, it is an execellent machine, but requires a few mods for the Euro built rider. And as I said, it really depends on what kind of rider you are. I like to hit the trails at 120kph plus and take on routes that a smaller bike would go, so for me, an upgrade in suspension is essential.

    I've test ridden BMW and KTM for other Thai sites and the BMW comes nowhere near the AT for off road. I'd say off road it is on par with the KTM.

    That being said, the pegs and its right-sided mount are poor, and one reason why places such as Camel Adventure are now offering modification. When an AT owner emailed Honda about the fender/wheel lock up, their response was astonishing! The rider was traveling along a trail that was slightly muddy in places. It was flat. He came of and bruised his lung in the process, and the cooling fans caved in from the impact. When he sent photos, Honda's response was that the area he rode in was designed for Enduro, and not adventure. They made this assumption based on the backround of the photo that had some small jumps for MX riders. They have since blocked him and won't respond. This is Honda Thailand to be clear.

    The bike is a great machine, just needs some doctoring to make it greater off road.

    Nice bike btw!
    Last edited by Jesus Jones; 10-03-2017 at 01:17 PM.

  8. #8
    Thailand Lifer Jesus Jones's Avatar
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    Mods needed for real off road.

    20k Crash protection
    8-12k bash plate (Supplied one is useless)
    8-10k handguards
    8-12k Enduro tires.
    5-10k Enduro pegs (I used Pivot Pegz)
    50-70k suspension package. (You can change the springs, fluid change and re valved for about 20K)
    5-10k Small protection items for brake reservoir etc.
    5-20k Fender riser kit
    Last edited by Jesus Jones; 10-03-2017 at 01:38 PM.

  9. #9
    A very comprehensive and logical list of mods JJ.
    What a shame Honda couldn't have done some of the obvious simple ones whilst in production.

    Never mind it's good to hear you'll keep it.

    I had to sell my old thing as I can't ride anymore but if I could I think I'd probably have gone for the new AT as well.

    All the best.

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